Happy Feet Two (2011)

Genres - Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Comedy, Family-Oriented Comedy  |   Release Date - Nov 18, 2011 (USA - 3D), Nov 18, 2011 (USA - IMAX 3D), Nov 18, 2011 (USA)  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - Australia, USA  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Happy Feet Two transports the audience back to the grandiose landscape of Antarctica and shines a light on some of the larger problems in the penguin community: namely, melting ice caps, which have set all sorts of environmental catastrophes in motion. In the original Happy Feet, a toe-tapping penguin named Mumble breaks from his flock so he can learn to dance and save the environment. The sequel mimics the original, only this time it's Mumble's son Erik who breaks from the flock so he can learn to fly. George Miller returns as director and co-writer and sticks largely to the formula that made the original such a hit -- adorable penguin characters, airy musical numbers, and stunning visuals -- but unlike Happy Feet, the sequel lacks a sense of charm and fails to live up to its Oscar-winning counterpart.

The film opens with a gigantic production number featuring all the dancing emperor penguins, including Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood), the tap-dancing penguin star of the first Happy Feet, and his mate Gloria (voiced by Pink, who replaces the late Brittany Murphy), but their son Erik (voiced by Ava Acres) is reluctant to dance. Mumble struggles to make a fatherly impression on his son, who has instead found his role model in the mysterious penguin Sven (Hank Azaria), who has the all-appealing ability to fly. Things get worse for Mumble when the world is shaken by powerful forces, causing him to bring together the penguins and their allies to set things right.

The film boasts an impressive cast of A-list voice talent, including Hugo Weaving, Sofia Vergara, and Common, but it's the harmonizing performances of Brad Pitt and Matt Damon -- who voice Will and Bill, a pair of philosophical, co-dependent krill trying to find their place near the top of the food chain -- that almost steal the show, which is troublesome because their scenes are much more interesting than what's taking place on the ice. This speaks to the larger problem with Happy Feet Two: Its script relies on too many outdated songs (including "Mama Said Knock You Out" and "Rhythm Nation") while recycling and regurgitating the global-warming doom-and-gloom theme of the first film. Happy Feet Two hits all the required marks of a kid's movie, but a piece of memorable original music or a performance number that's celebratory rather than grinding would have made this film much more enjoyable.